State grades on executive accountability show room for improvement

With the start of the Republican National Convention this week, the presidential election makes the turn from the preliminaries to the main event. The conventions, debates and relentless campaign ads will dominate the political landscape until election day in November.

While the focus turns to electing a chief executive, the executive branch of government at the state level actually can have more direct impact on the lives of citizens. One of the 14 categories we examined in the State Integrity Investigation focused on executive accountability, in which reporters looked at the laws that keep watch on the actions of governors across all 50 states.

The State Integrity Investigation ranked New Jersey as the top state the executive accountability category, in part because of the laws there requiring disclosure of any conflicts of interest for the governor and the auditing procedures in place to review those disclosures. Governors are required to submit an asset disclosure statement, which is posted online for citizens to view within 24 hours. The statement is audited by the State Ethics Commission.

South Carolina brought up the rear in this category, with an 'F' grade. In South Carolina, the governor is required to file a "statement of economic interest'' before taking the oath of office; however, the governor isn't required by that statement to disclose any information about her assets or sources of income. South Carolina has poor financial disclosure laws for all state officials; proposals on the table now from both legislators and Gov. Nikki Haley take aim at that weakness and may be considered in the 2013 legislative session.

One area in which both New Jersey and South Carolina scored poorly -- along with most other states -- involves the ability of governors to set up non-profit organizations that can be used to reward political supporters or circumvent campaign finance laws. Neither state addresses that possibility through statute, and it is a gap in regulation among most other states as well. Tennessee, which scored third in this category, views this kind of organizations in the same category as political action committees and requires disclosure.

1. New Jersey
Overall: B+
Grade: B+ (88%)

2. California
Overall: B-
Grade: B- (83%)

3. Tennessee
Overall: C
Grade: B- (83%)

4. Washington
Overall: B-
Grade: B- (82%)

5. New Hampshire
Overall: D
Grade: B- (82%)

6. Connecticut
Overall: B
Grade: C+ (79%)

7. Iowa
Overall: C+
Grade: C+ (79%)

8. Hawaii
Overall: C
Grade: C+ (79%)

9. North Carolina
Overall: C-
Grade: C+ (79%)

10. Louisiana
Overall: C-
Grade: C+ (78%)

11. Missouri
Overall: C-
Grade: C+ (78%)

12. Montana
Overall: D+
Grade: C+ (78%)

13. Illinois
Overall: C
Grade: C+ (77%)

14. Colorado
Overall: D+
Grade: C+ (77%)

15. Massachusetts
Overall: C
Grade: C+ (77%)

16. Wisconsin
Overall: C-
Grade: C+ (77%)

17. Rhode Island
Overall: C
Grade: C (76%)

18. Alabama
Overall: C-
Grade: C (76%)

19. Delaware
Overall: C-
Grade: C (76%)

20. Pennsylvania
Overall: C-
Grade: C (76%)

21. Kansas
Overall: C
Grade: C (75%)

22. Minnesota
Overall: D+
Grade: C (74%)

23. Arizona
Overall: D+
Grade: C (74%)

24. Kentucky
Overall: C-
Grade: C- (73%)

25. Utah
Overall: D
Grade: C- (73%)

26. Alaska
Overall: D+
Grade: C- (73%)

27. Arkansas
Overall: D+
Grade: C- (73%)

28. Nebraska
Overall: B-
Grade: C- (71%)

29. Florida
Overall: C-
Grade: C- (71%)

30. Indiana
Overall: C-
Grade: C- (71%)

31. Nevada
Overall: D-
Grade: C- (70%)

32. Mississippi
Overall: C+
Grade: D+ (69%)

33. New York
Overall: D
Grade: D (66%)

34. Oklahoma
Overall: D
Grade: D (66%)

35. New Mexico
Overall: D-
Grade: D (65%)

36. Oregon
Overall: C-
Grade: D (65%)

37. West Virginia
Overall: D+
Grade: D (64%)

38. Georgia
Overall: F
Grade: D- (62%)

39. Oregon
Overall: D+
Grade: D- (62%)

40. Ohio
Overall: D
Grade: D- (62%)

41. North Dakota
Overall: F
Grade: D- (60%)

42. Michigan
Overall: F
Grade: F (59%)

43. Texas
Overall: D+
Grade: F (59%)

44. Maryland
Overall: D-
Grade: F (58%)

45. Virginia
Overall: F
Grade: F (57%)

46. Wyoming
Overall: F
Grade: F (56%)

47. South Dakota
Overall: F
Grade: F (54%)

48. Idaho
Overall: D-
Grade: F (52%)

49. Maine
Overall: F
Grade: F (50%)

50. South Carolina
Overall: F
Grade: F (47%)

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